Cost of living in Penang in November 2012

Just to give you an idea of what it could cost to live in Penang on a monthly basis, where in November 2012 GBP£1 = RM4.9; USD$1 = RM3; AUD$1 = RM3.1

When first here we lived for RM30 per day, plus rent.  Below gives more details of costs of a comfortable life.

Rent:
RM300 in a low cost condo, with no facilities, and probably in a poor location in a badly maintained building.
RM2,500 for a three bedroom two bathroom condo of about 1,000 square feet, with pool, gym, parking space etc.  in a nice, reasonably maintained building.
And up for bigger, better appointed condos.
Houses, RM2,000 or more.

Home ownership:
Condo: maintenance fees.
House: see tax section.

Utilities:
Electricity is metered, but water is a fixed charge, and you get gas delivered in canisters.

RM200 for electricity, using air cons when necessary, heating water for showers, lighting, TV etc. Expats report bills ranging for less than RM100 up to RM800, depending on their homes, and usage, of course. Our bill is very similar to that of the UK, but in the UK we lived in a two bedroom flat, with gas central heating, but, importantly, we were out of the flat working five days a week, which would have kept the bill much lower. Thus, electricity is costing us less here, even though it cannot be said to be cheap.

RM10 per month for gas. There is no town gas, so you have gas delivered in canisters, costing RM27 or so for medium size cannister. This has lasted us from about three months to about six months, depending on how much we ate in.

RM3  for water; it costs RM6 minimum per two months, and usually we only use the minimum. I use rainwater to water the plants where possible, because the plants seem to prefer it, but in the drier months use town water.

Groceries:
RM900 for groceries. There are supermarkets and markets for fruit and vegetables. But if we buy everything just from Tesco, this is an approximate figure, although prices are rising significantly.

Health Insurance:
RM400 for two of us for policies covering hospitalisation, taken out locally, but covering world wide.  Visiting a doctor in a clinic costs around RM35, or in a hospital RM80 or more.

Tax:
RM0 if you are renting. The service charge for the condo is paid by the owner, as is any tax on the property. If you own a house, there is a land tax and a charge for the local council’s services, which amount to about RM500 per annum for both for a modest property.

Petrol:
RM1.90 per litre – I live centrally, so even when I drive it is only for about 10 minutes one way, so in a month I spend less than RM100 on petrol.

Car running costs:
Car service – about RM400 for a Japanese car to perhaps RM1,000 for a Mercedes. I only need it once a year as everything is close by in Penang, so I don’t drive many miles. Road tax depends on engine size – see this calculator. Some things are really cheap – puncture repair RM8, for example – with immediate and friendly service. Car insurance, of course, depends on the car value and your no claim discount.  RM2,000 per year for a medium size car, perhaps, with full no claim discount.

Parking:
RM0.30 per half hour, and up, on Penang Island, for street parking by meter or with parking attendants. RM5 for parking all day, as a guideline. On weekdays it costs RM1 for three hours parking in Gurney Plaza, on weekends more. You can park free, too, in some supermarkets, on suburban streets, at some businesses.

Taxi:
RM10 for a short distance, RM15 for about 10 minutes drive, and up for longer. Taxis are supposed to be metered, but drivers usually prefer not to use meters and quote a price – which they usually won’t lower if you try to bargain.  Occasionally they will, though.  The quoted price and the metered price often work out similar, anyway, and I prefer the former. Pulau Tikus to the ferry terminal is RM15; Pulau Tikus to Queensbay Mall RM35. Pulau Tikus to airport RM55ish. Prices significantly higher between midnight and 6AM, and to the airport there is a special airport charge. Personally I think if you choose a regular taxi company, or several drivers you like, then you will find them honest and reliable, and have no problems.  But even picking taxis from the street I have found the drivers honest and mostly friendly – in Penang. As for KL, I hear the situation is different.

Public Transport:
The ferry to Butterworth is free; returning is RM1.20 as a foot passenger, RM7.70 for a car with passengers. Otherwise there are Rapid Penang buses.  Presently I am boycotting them for a year after my last experience, so I can’t remember the fare, but their site says the minimum fare is RM1.40.  Beware of pickpockets – friends of mine have had things stolen on the bus. I would take nothing valuable, and only the money I needed, and not travel when the buses are full. There are few seats, so it’s likely you will have to stand. Neither are they reliable, and drivers often don’t speak English.  However, they are air-conditioned.

Wine:
Alcohol is highly taxed, and costs more than the UK, and far more than Europe.  One 330ml can of beer in a supermarket is RM6 and up; a 700ml bottle of local vodka is RM23 (good for cocktails), a 700ml bottle of imported vodka about RM120; a 750 ml bottle of vintage wine bottled in country of origin from RM35 if you look around; 750ml sparkling wine from RM70 if on special; imported liqueurs generally well over RM100. Mixers like Schweppes ginger ale and tonic water etc. cost about RM1.50.

Eating out:
Can be free, at some temples, or on festival days, where shops hand out food, and bottles of water.  Generally, eating out is cheap, but drinking alcohol out is expensive.  A 660ml bottle of local beer is around RM15 at a hawker centre – but noodles might cost you RM3. Of course western food in upmarket restaurants is far more expensive, and a small glass of wine could cost RM20 or more.  Nevertheless, expensive western style restaurants are good value for food if you compare the price to London, Paris, Sydney etc. Local cooking uses far too much sugar, and MSG, so eating out frequently, especially in cheap places like hawker centres,  over a longer period is probably not healthy, unless you are very selective.

Cinema:
From RM7. Yes, very affordable, and cinemas are quite empty weekdays, during the day.

Cable TV:
I am not at all interested. This is the Malaysian provider.

Clubs:
You can join local clubs, such at The Penang Club, The Penang Swimming Club, the Penang Sports Club etc. You need to buy a membership, and then pay monthly dues, which are about RM12,000 and then RM165 monthly for the Penang Club; about RM25,000 membership fee for the Swimming Club; monthly fee unknown; and RM15,000 and RM100 monthly for the Sports Club. You can sell the membership in the future, if you wish.

Did I forget anything important?  Let me know if I did, and I will add the details if I know them, or can find them out.

4 comments

  1. Hi, Thanks for sharing this information. Regarding the RM2,500 for a three bedroom two bathroom condo. If we are staying for only 2 or 3 months, what would the rent be? We actually only need 2 bedrooms. Thanks, M

    1. Most rental contracts are for a year. For shorter term I think you’d have to ask an agent. But of course, there are far cheaper, and far more expensive condos, too.

  2. Thanks for your speedy response! Are there any agents you recommend? Are there other ways to get in direct contact with people wanting to rent out 2 bedroom flats?

    >But of course, there are far cheaper, and far more expensive condos, too.
    OK, so I guess it’s realistic then to think we could find a 2 bedroom place with a common pool in a clean and safe building for 2000-2500 RM per month. We don’t need Miami Green level, one notch down would be fine for us.

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